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Redskins' website renews defense of team name

Thursday - 2/14/2013, 6:40am  ET

redskins512.jpg
Chief Zee roots for the Redskins. (AP Photo)

Andrew Mollenbeck, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - As the debate continues to intensify over the Redskins' moniker, the team's official website has launched a new defense of the name.

Seventy high schools in 25 states use the name, nearly the same number as those using the Cowboys name, according to a new video posted on the team's website.

"I just visited with one of our Native American liaisons," Gary Hodde, the high school athletic director at McLoud High School in Oklahoma, says in a recent video.

"She reiterated that the people of our community, which is primarily Kickapoos, Shawnee, with a few Potawatomis, are quite proud of the name 'Redskins' and would be saddened and disappointed if we changed our nickname," he says.

Similar arguments have been made among those who support a variety of team names with Native American references.

In the Redskins case, the organization deliberately reached out to high school programs. The video also includes an interview with Brian Orakpo's high school coach, Tom Nolen. He leads the Lamar High School Redskins in Houston.

"I think it's a great nickname, mascot or whatever you have," Nolen says. "All the traits of a Redskin warrior are certainly something to be admired."

"I don't understand where people see any negative aspects to it," he adds.

But many do, and more outspoken critics have said the name is the most hurtful kind of racial slur toward American Indians.

The video is in part a push back against several high profile calls in recent weeks for the team to drop its name.

One of those was a symposium last week at the National Museum of the American Indian. It titled the forum "Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriations in Sports."

Suzan Shown Harjo, who is Cheyenne and Muscogee, moderated one of those panels. She is also president of the Morning Star Institute.

"It's indirect exploitation of Native American and other minors in high school," she says. "I think it's pretty despicable what they're doing."

Many schools have moved away from such names. In 1970, more than 3,000 schools had team names with American Indian references. Today, there are about 900 remaining, Harjo says.

Those fighting for the remaining teams to change their names argue that the monikers and mascots are not benign.

"These monikers are very harmful to children," says Eileen Maxwell, the public affairs director at the museum. "They are the cause of low self-esteem, depression and lower achievement."

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